A recent study shows that physical activity may improve mental health more effectively than a higher income.

There is no shortage of research that describes exercise as beneficial to both physical and mental health. A cross-sectional study from 2018 published in The Lancet found that those who regularly exercise report fewer days of poor mood that the sedentary.

The researchers, hailing from Yale and Oxford, analyzed a large data sample of more than 1.2 million adults in the USA collected by surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (CDC-BRFSS) during the years 2011, 2013, and 2015.

The results showed that individuals who exercised reported 43.2% fewer days of poor mental health (stress, depression, emotional problems, etc.) in the past month when they were asked. On average, those who regularly exercised felt bad for around 35 days a year. Meanwhile, sedentary people tended to feel bad for 18 days more than their active counterparts.

Many factors were balanced and taken into consideration, including age, race, gender, education, income, marital status, body mass index, and mental health history. Those who were physically active felt just as good as people who earn more than $25,000 a year but don’t work out. This indicates that fitness is able to improve mental health more effectively than income. This doesn’t necessarily agree with the adage that “money can’t buy happiness.” There are studies which show that money can, but only if you spend it the right way.

Activities with social aspects showed greater positive effects. Popular team sports had the best mental health outcomes, followed by cycling, aerobic, and gym activities respectively. However, too much exercise can have the opposite effect. Physical activity improves mental health, but only within a certain duration. The study found that those who exercised for more than three hours a day reported poorer mental health than the non-active participants. The researchers recommend three to five sessions per week, each lasting 30 minutes to an hour.

Visit the E-Sports International newsroom for more news about topics related to fitness and health.

Photo Credits:

Images are from Getty Images, Bay Area Disc, and YogaSix.

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